Wall Street Journal Tells Its Own PBS Tale of CPB's Clownish Inspector

The Wall Street Journal editorial page today takes the time to explain its side of the controversy over former CPB Board Chairman Ken Tomlinson, PBS's expiring "Journal Editorial Report" program and the report of CPB inspector general Kenneth Konz. They were not impressed with Mr. Konz's amazing lack of contact: "As it happened, Mr. Konz conducted merely a cursory interview with [WSJ TV chief Kathryn] Christensen and Journal lawyer Stuart Karle, said he had no interest in even talking to Mr. Gigot, and never asked at all about Mr. Tomlinson. To call him Inspector Clouseau may be unfair to Peter Sellers."

On the politics, they conclude the PBS system is both liberal and bizarre:

Beyond these details, the larger political tale spun by Mr. Konz and other critics of Mr. Tomlinson is preposterous. We are supposed to believe that the vast bureaucracy that is PBS, with all of its inbred policies and interests, was somehow cowed by a single conservative board member who lacked any real management power. Any regular PBS viewer knows the opposite is true.

The real story is that Mr. Tomlinson was a rare political appointee who took seriously CPB's mandate to pursue balanced programming. As even Mr. Konz concedes in his report, under federal law CPB is required to review "national broadcasting programming for quality, diversity, creativity, excellence, innovation, objectivity and balance." And he also concludes that "CPB's actions were consistent with their responsibilities under the Public Telecommunications Act of 1992."

Most nominees to these broadcast boards enjoy the perquisites of the job and do nothing. An avowed conservative, Mr. Tomlinson sought to restore balance to a PBS lineup he saw as skewed left, especially the "Now" program with Mr. Moyers that had become the cornerstone of PBS's public-affairs lineup in the wake of 9/11. Moreover, he did so openly, appearing everywhere this spring to make his case. He was similarly open about his support for the Journal program.

What really tripped him up was the CPB board's decision early this year not to renew the contract of CPB President Kathleen Cox. The media leaks started not too long after that, all spun as if Mr. Tomlinson were attempting a conservative coup by trying to get a measly 30 minutes of conservative programming a week on PBS. House Democrats picked up the scent, commissioning Mr. Konz, who has now spent months and many taxpayer dollars to find Mr. Tomlinson guilty of such violations in the CPB universe as . . . encouraging Mr. Gigot to return to PBS.

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